Pennsylvania State Senate candidate Paul Prescod spoke to Penn Dems about his campaign platform and election plans at the group's biweekly Deputy Board meeting this week.
Roughly 25 Penn Democrats members attended the talk, which took place on the evening of March 30. At the event, Prescod discussed his political background, which he said was atypical, as he is currently a public school teacher in Philadelphia. He said that he entered politics in part because of the inequalities he has witnessed in the classrooms.
“I think we need more ordinary people running for office, not just people that have come from political families or come from wealth, but ordinary people who have experience standing up for what is right,” Prescod said.
Prescod is running for the 8th District seat in the State Senate, which covers large portions of South and West Philadelphia – including University City – and Delaware County, against Democratic incumbent Anthony Williams. The general primary election will take place on May 17.
Prescod explained that he considers himself more of an activist than a politician, adding that his first campaign was when he helped organize a nurse's strike at Temple University as a first year.
During the event, Prescod discussed his experiences in Philadelphia schools, speaking about issues of mold, lead, and asbestos, as well as problems with funding for support staff and after-school programs.
“I do not think you have to be a teacher to realize that we are in a really deep crisis,” Prescod said. “There has to be a public commitment to public schools.”
Penn has historically not paid PILOTs, or Payments in Lieu of Taxes, which would support the Philadelphia public school system. Penn has cited their other involvements within the Philadelphia public school system in defense of their not paying PILOTs.
Prescod also spoke about the importance of addressing climate change, expanding public transit within the city, and creating sustainable jobs rather than more low-wage jobs.
After elaborating on his commitment to finding progressive solutions, Prescod took questions from the club members present. When asked what his top priority if elected would be, he emphasized once again the crisis in public schools, insisting that other issues like gun violence can be prevented "if we can get students into after-school programs to prepare them for the future.”
Prescod was also asked about gentrification in Philadelphia and specifically about his thoughts on the sale of the UC Townhomes that will displace 69 households. He said that the eviction of the UC Townhomes' residents is evidence that the state needs to promote more affordable housing projects.
Prescod also said that elected officials need to take a more active role in taking a stance on issues like the UC Townhomes and that far too often they decide to stand on the side.
“I am not going to stand in the background and just let things happen,” Prescod said. “If you are an elected official with a voice, you can actually help to determine outcomes.”
After the event, Penn Dems Political Director and College sophomore Lucy Kronenberg said she appreciated how Prescod's platform was based on his own experiences and insights.
She added that many people underestimate the role that local politics have on their day-to-day life.
“We tend to focus on federal elections because they are more high profile, but the things that impact our daily lives really happen at the state and local level," Kronenberg said.
Other student groups on campus have also shown their support for Prescod's campaign, with Penn Justice Dems endorsing Prescod earlier this year. Their co-director Jack Cahill said that the club decided to endorse Prescod because of his commitment to progressive causes like funding public education and universal healthcare.
Penn Justice Dems are planning to get involved with his campaign through canvassing, fundraising, and potentially phone banking.
"Our incumbent representative in the State Senate hasn't really met the mark for advocating for the needs of working families in Pennsylvania," Cahill said. "We were pretty dead set on supporting this campaign after hearing what he stood for."